Internet & Society: The Technologies and Politics of Control
Harvard Law School - Spring 2002

Professor Jonathan Zittrain

Home | Course Logistics | Syllabus | Rotisserie | Questions & Feedback | Additional Resources


class 1|class 2|class 3|class 4|class 5|class 6|class 7|class 8|class 9|class 10|class 11|class 12|class 13
Class 1: The DNS Mess - Monday, 1/28

Class 2: Getting between you and where you want to go - CDA, PICS & ISP Liability - Monday 2/4

Early on, some people surmised that the Internet was about "disintermediation" - a long word for getting rid of the middleperson. It was a blissful thought. From the demand side of the equation, people who needed something could just access the Internet and get it on their own. If you wanted to find information about your hobby or your job search or your elected representatives, you could just go to a Web site and find out what you needed to know. If you wanted to buy a gift for someone, no need to go to a retail outlet; you could go straight to the wholesaler, and pay lower prices as a result. Likewise, from the supply side of the equation, those who wanted to publish something could directly publish what they liked, without needing a publisher and without fear of censorship.

Some of the familiar old intermediaries may have gone, but new intermediaries have replaced them. Instead of "disintermediation," there is "reintermediation."

In this session we will explore the trajectory of various ___mediations, with emphasis on the evolving architecture of the Internet itself - how data moves from one place to another, and the many pressure points, some hidden and subtle, at which gatekeepers could stand, for profit, ideology, or pure mischief.

The readings are designed to show the use of online intermediaries as gatekeepers in a number of roles, at the behest of a variety of entities.


Class 3: Too Much Music - Intellectual Property, digital music, Napster, P2P - Monday, 2/11

Napster started a revolution. A couple of guys, a cool idea, and a simple technology awakened the lazy, sleeping giants of the music publishing business and made them very, very afraid. The legal battle was joined, and some of America's most famous lawyers fought it out in court. Some of the richest venture capitalists lost their shirts, and a business deal closed out the story - at least for now.

Our starting point in class will be what Napster's story - and the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) movement in general - means for the law related to the Internet. The notion of file sharing persists, in many formats and many business models. Some of the thorny intellectual property issues raised in the Napster case (and in the Sony case before it) remain unresolved.

We will treat Napster as a case study, and try to predict what will happen next. We will reflect on last week's exploration of pressure points, considering what the various parties with stakes in the future, including consumers, can do to affect the outcome.


Class 4: Too Little Music - Trusted Systems, DeCss, Anti-Circumvention - Monday, 2/18

Last week we saw how the digital music revolution swept the web. This week, we explore the proposition that another shoe will drop: technology backed up by law can beat back P2P and lock music up tight. This session will address the technological advances related to so-called trusted systems and the legal mechanisms set in place by the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The first piece tries to answer the question you may be asking yourself at this moment ("What's a trusted system?") and explores what the advent of these technologies means for content control. We'll explore the drawbacks of these technologies, and the possibility that trusted systems that aren't perfect may still be good enough for their creators' purposes.




Breaking News:


Class 5: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: From Broadcast to Webcast - Monday, 2/25

As a bookend to explorations of copyright on the Net, this session will explore the compulsory licensing scheme that seeks to extract royalties from online webcasters.

We will consider the technology behind webcasting and the fears of copyright holders in coming to understand the death - or at least dearth - of a new industry amidst the complexities of copyright legislation.


Classes 6 & 7: Privacy I & II: Commercial and Government Surveillance - Monday, 3/4 & Monday, 3/11

People answered a pre-9/11 Gallup Poll with the claim that loss of privacy was more worrisome to them than the prospect of nuclear war. More and more personal information and communications exist online, and ever more effective government surveillance technology takes advantage of this source of knowledge. Frequently the government can easily access information online that would not be available offline or would at least require a warrant. Commercial surveillance is also purported to be extremely effective. Online tracking and data collection allow many companies to amass very specific consumer profiles.

These two sessions explore just how much we care about privacy, understanding that this area is most susceptible to temporal and cultural differences.

Readings I:


Readings II:

Governement Surveillance

Class 8: Harmful Speech - and ways to stop it - Monday, 3/18

The Web and the Internet significantly shifted two of the boundaries that used to constrain speech: the ability to speak anonymously and the ease of making oneself heard. With the increasing popularity of the web and email, people with something to say could easily get their message out (whether or not others would choose to read it) and without making their identities known (at least to the average computer user). These two changes encouraged a relative proliferation of speech of a sort that used to exist at a more or less stable level of hard-to-find-unless-you-knew-where-to-look.

For some this change was liberating: it allowed those who were marginalized in their local environments to find others like them on the net, or gave them access to information on touchy subjects without forcing them to reveal their identity. It allowed those with unpopular ideas to publish them more aggressively and to increase their strength in spite of their small numbers. For others the change appeared dangerous: it allowed children to gain access to pornography and other material their parents didn't want them to see, and allowed pornographers and perverts to contact them; it allowed people to publish hate speech anonymously without fear of accountability or reprisal. Technical means, such as filters, have been used to try to make the net safe for kids.

How effective are they? Are they a good thing? How should the law handle this? How can U.S. law handle this consistent with the Constitution?


Class 9: Too few boundaries - Yahoo!,, iCrave TV - Monday, 4/1

This session takes on the issue of jurisdiction on the internet and the argument for the minimal intrusion of "local" regimes. We will cover two cases where competing jurisdictional ideals have collided on the Net. In one case, U.S. copyright law was brought to bear on a Canadian company in order to protect U.S. business interests. In the other, a U.S. company struggles to resist enforcement of a judgment under French law. Lastly, we will consider technological "solutions" to the problem of compliance across disparate jurisdictions and their implications for the evolution of the internet.

Class 10: Cyber Security - Thursday, 4/18 (Originally scheduled for Monday, 4/8)

The protection of the public safety and the protection of civil liberties are often in tension. Some fear that the national digital infrastructure is at risk and that governments need powerful tools in defense. Others contend that the fears are overblown, and that the real fear is the undue intrusion by government into the lives of private, net-using individuals.



  • Critical Infrastructure Commission Report
  • Offensive Measures: Review week 7 Government Surveillance readings
  • Defensive Measures: Carolyn Meinel, "How Hackers Break In & How They Are Caught" & Phillip Zimmerman, "Cryptography for the Internet," Scientific American, October 1998

    Government Response to Cases:
    • AUSA Daniel A. Morris, "Tracking a Computer Hacker"
    • Kent Alexander & Scott Charney, "Computer Crime," Emory Law Review Vol. 45, No. 3 (Summer 1996) Sections on "Understanding the Law Enforcement Challenge" & "Developing Computer Crime Policy" pp. 933-945 & 954-957


The Penalties: Kevin Mitnick

    • Background: John Markoff, "Hacker Case Underscores Internet's Vulnerability" New York Times, (2/17/95)
    • Parole Terms


  • Kent Alexander & Scott Charney, "Computer Crime," Emory Law Review Vol. 45, No. 3 (Summer 1996) especially Section on Understanding the Law Enforcement Challenge" pp. 933-945
  • Larry Lessig, "Preventing Intrusion through Encryption," Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, pp. 30 - 42 (with particular attention to pp. 35 - 40)

Class 11: What's different about the Internet? The Microsoft Case-- Sometime during the week of 4/15

Microsoft is the ultimate technology company success story, from start-up to the company with the largest market capitalization of any company in the world within less than two decades. If any company has succeeded in cornering the markets for control, it's Microsoft. Indeed, according to the United States Department of Justice and at least one federal judge, they succeeded too well. The Microsoft case continues to unfold with enormous potential implications for the law of cyberspace as well as antitrust law in general.

In this class we ask whether the Microsoft case is just another antitrust case - or whether it illustrates the ways in which one can't just apply old laws to the Net by adding an e- in front. We'll also look at Microsoft's .NET initiative, and the Cassandra-like worries already coalescing around it.



  • Paul David, Clio and the Economics of QWERTY, 75 American Economic Review, 332 (1985).
  • Stan Liebowitz & Stephen E. Margolis, Should Technology Choice Be a Concern of Antitrust Policy?, 9 Harv. J. L. & Tech. 283, selections (1996).


Class 12: Private Sheriffs - MAPS, Marsh, Intel v. Hamidi - Monday, 4/8 (Originally scheduled for 4/22.)

In the "real" world we experience a mix of private and public - houses and parks. The infrastructure of the Internet is almost completely privately owned, from the pipes to the ISPs to the computers we use.

The conventional political and social wisdom of the Net appears essentially libertarian, celebrating this entirely private zone, with the threat to Net freedoms coming from outside Government(s) -- those weary giants of flesh and steel, as Barlow put it so lyrically in his now-venerable Declaration of Independence for Cyberspace. With most of cyberspace being "private," the setup is of a pleasant anarchy which need only come together to keep the inept (if not evil) government out.

As the first of two sessions winding up the course, we ask whether this remains true as either a descriptive or normative principle. We might confront the idea that threats to freedom come not from Big Brother but from Middle Siblings, a panoply of "private sheriffs," whether motivated by ideology or greed, who are increasingly in a position to govern our online behavior. The readings offer two case studies of private parties seeking to control the behavior of other private parties - while government claims no involvement in the dispute.


Recently Added (posted 4/3)

Class 13: Bringing it all together - The TiVo-ization of America - Monday, 4/29